Category Archives: Youth

Remembering the Little Rock Nine – Where are we now?

Most years September 25 would pass with little news and less reflection on the historic significance of the date.  And yet, on this sixtieth anniversary of the Little Rock Nine, it behooves us to take note of the day.  It was on this day that nine brave children and their parents mustered the courage to exercise their right to learn.  It’s an inspirational American story of the consequences of action – and the danger of inaction. http://www.littlerock9.com/index.html

The simple story has made its mark on the annals of history. Wikipedia offers a helpful review and links to further learning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rock_Nine

Nine from Little Rock, the award-winning 1964 short documentary, has been restored by the National Archives.  View the 18-minute documentary on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPVOO5sugMY

Today’s Axios post reminds readers of the reason we should care about this long ago and far away episode in our shared history: https://www.axios.com/remembering-the-little-rock-nine-2489346862.html

Questia offers a good overview of the Little Rock story and an exhaustive list of books and articles that offer various historic facts, as well as personal stories of the Little Rock Nine themselves. https://www.questia.com/library/history/united-states-history/african-american-history/little-rock-nine

Honoring the anniversary of this momentous, if too often forgotten, historic fact today’s media offer a number of “takes” on the story that warrants reflection these six decades later – just a few of the many online resources:

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything – Albert Einstein

 

 

 

Advertisements

Take a Child Outside Week- A great Minnesota Autumn Idea!!

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.~ Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

Our ancestors would be incredulous, and totally amused, to learn that September 24-September 30  marks the annual national celebration of “Take a Child Outside Week.”  Kids were supposed live outside – farm kids working in the fields, city kids bouncing a basketball or playing girl games like hop scotch….  Though Pokémon-mania has lured some kids to the outdoors, emphasis there is on the chase and racking up pokes….

The truth is that many or most kids are not  instinctively oriented to “experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bell” or “feel the earth quiver”, or “know a hundred different smells….”

Recognizing the “magical capacity of the young,”  the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (http://naturalsciences.org) conceived the idea of a designated week.  The expressed of goal of Take a Child Outside Week is “to help children develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment and an enthusiasm for exploring the natural world.”

If you haven’t thought much about intentional exploration of the great outdoors, there are treasures yet to be enjoyed – especially with a child.  A quick check of Wikipedia offers some ready points of access to outdoor adventure – some may be closer to home than you realize – most of these offer armchair access via the web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nature_centers_in_Minnesota

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson

ANOTHER RESOURCE: National Park Foundation, Out of the Classroom into the Park.  https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/out-classroom-and-park

STATS RE YOUNG TEENS: http://www.childrenandnature.org/2017/09/22/less-than-half-of-young-teens-play-outdoors-survey-shows/?mc_cid=cd660c91ac&mc_eid=0a2e52be93

Young poet envisions “a world worth building!”

These days my head has been teeming with images of the many faces of Resistance – mostly the ways in which people of good will have gathered to blend their skills and societal commitment to share truth, experiences and opinions — eventually, to take arms (or voice, or knitting needles, laptop, paint brush, cello, chisel or camera) to oppose – and end – the “sea of troubles” in which the nation is floundering.

The splash this weekend has been news of Amanda Gorman, a young woman whose powerful presence and poetry have taken the nation by storm.  As the first National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda was omnipresent in the media as she spoke out at last weekend’s Social Good Summit.

Learn more about this powerful young woman of words — and listen to her message — here: http://mashable.com/2017/09/17/amanda-gorman-us-youth-poet-laureate-social-good/#ydD41XQL_iqg.  Or read this piece about Amanda and the National Youth Poet Laureate title here: https://www.pw.org/content/amanda_gorman_named_national_youth_poet_laureate

Because Amanda is the first to wear the laurel wreath as National Youth Poet Laureate it’s important to know more about the backstory of the initiative.  The project itself reflects the vision of Urban Word, a “youth literary arts and youth development organization” whose mission is “to elevate the voices of teens while promoting civic engagement and social justice.”  (http://urbanwordnyc.org) The project places youth in “spaces of power” where they can “creatively respond to the litany of social and political factors that impact their cities and their lives.”  https://www.pw.org/content/amanda_gorman_named_national_youth_poet_laureate

Last month, the youthful Poet Laureate met with the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and staff of the Poetry and Literature Staff of the Library of Congress. The description of that informal gathering, prepared by LC staffer Anne Holmes, offers a thoughtful overview of the Youth Poet Laureate initiative and insights about Amanda’s experience. You’ll feel the flicker of hope springing eternal: https://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2017/07/amanda-gorman-inaugural-national-youth-poet-laureate/

Reflecting on her experience as a participant in the Social Good Summit, Amanda shared these elegant words with Summit attendees:

With one microphone, we streak/ across the globe like an eclipse. We strike our plans into stone/ and from this we build a summit worth climbing, / a goal worth reaching, / a world worth building.”

 

Why we need the Peace Corps – then and now

This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease. ― Robert F. Kennedy

For reasons I can’t quite explain, the President’s proposed axing of the majority of nation’s volunteer programs is causing me unique and terrible pain.

Though hunger, homelessness, fake facts and betrayal inflict deeper wounds, the end of the Peace Corps is a stab in the back that I can neither explain nor overcome.  One of the several volunteer programs the President has targeted, the Peace Corps set the pace – for my generation it was an awakening to global awareness. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/us/politics/trump-budget-americorps-peace-corps-service.html?_r=0

As one who has known the privilege of living with hope, I shudder at the pall that this disastrous proposal to half essential volunteer initiatives casts on youth, the same young people who must understand, eventually inherit, believe in, protect and share this nation and this planet.

My focus on the Peace Corps is personal; it was the program that most affected my life and my world awareness.  Obviously I realize that the Peace Corps was then and this is now.  And yet for me the bold venture will always represent a willingness of youth to give, to learn, and, above all, to hope.  My life, and the lives of a generation of hopeful Americans, has been shaped in part by the dream and the reality that the Peace Corps represents.

Though I didn’t have the guts to join the Peace Corps, the tough decision made by my contemporaries inspired me to explore the world writ large.   The Peace Corps, by its very existence, expanded my world. In a sort of backup move, I answered without question the call to serve as ED of a national faith-based youth organization in Our Nation’s Capital, one of a host of similar groups in the front lines of civil rights and inter-faith collaboration.

From Peace Corps friends’ letters (yes, written epistles) I learned of others’ cultures, challenges, needs, how to listen, learn and share ideas and basic truths.  I learned from friends who shed their pretense of superiority as they explored with equals the principles that shaped this democracy.  Friends wrote of their experiences with others whose ways, though different from American ways, were viable and adaptable.  I learned about my friends’ efforts to be authentic seekers and tellers of truth.

Though the Peace Corps faced charges of “do-goodism” at the outset, it was not long before volunteers became frontline emissaries of American good will.

Over the years, the nature of the Corps changed radically.  Volunteers of all ages joined their younger colleagues – Lillian Carter being the poster grandma for a trend of seniors who brought skills, not to mention maturity, that strengthened the organization.   In time, joining the Corps became not so much a bold risk but a viable means of contributing to a “work-in-progress”.

And yet I keep thinking of those early volunteers.  What I realize is the ways in which their Peace Corps experience changed their lives and the lives and institutions they have shaped over the decades.   The expanded world views of those now-aging volunteers continue to make a difference.  Though they may not talk much about their years in Ethiopia or Nigeria the volunteer alumni have not abandoned the spirit of hope they shared with others and that they continue to keep hope alive back home.  https://www.peacecorpsconnct.org/cpages/home

 

 

 

Feeling good about feeling informed – in 140 characters

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance~~Plato

Since “information literary awareness” is on my mind this month, I resonated when I spotted this from the latest Journalist’s Resource: “Facebook and feeling informed: A proxy for news?” I loved the reference to the self-delusion of “feeling informed.”

The article cites a specific study and findings: “Appetizer or Main Dish? Explaining the use of Facebook news posts as a substitute for other news sources” published in Computers in Human Behavior, 2016.   There’s an abstract of the study online and a summary of findings in this Journalist’s Resource article: (http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/social-media/facebook-social-media-news-informed)

What stunned me most was to learn that 63% of Facebook users see it as a news source – a number that inflates to 74% among 18-34 year olds. In fact, when it comes to the meat of the story, Facebook sells only the sizzle, not the steak….

In a fleeting act of desperation I decided to go with the flow, to surrender to the times, to capitulate. So, to reduce the complexities of information literacy, search strategies and other pedagogical anachronisms, I propose that student researchers streamline the formalities of information literacy down to these elegantly tweetable basics:

  • What’s the problem?
  • Who said so?
  • When?
  • Whadda they know?
  • What’s their angle?
  • What difference does it make?
  • What’s my take on the story?
  • Can I say it in140 characters?

With apologies to the poet, doesn’t that cover “all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know?” I know I feel informed……

 

“Information Literacy”- Universal challenge of the digital era

Information’s everywhere so now we have to think

 As we reel in the barrage of misinformation, punctuated with provocative spurts of ignorance, it seems ironic – if timely — to note that October 2016 is National Information Literacy Awareness Month.  On the positive side, we should be keenly aware by now that this democracy, based as it is on an informed citizenry, faces an unprecedented challenge.

In truth the term “information literacy” makes me cringe, though I can offer no alternative. More to the point, my serious concern is to focus on the concept – that we keep the goal in mind as we struggle to sort through the maze of messages with which we are bombarded. So I use the term “infolit” and think about how we cope – individually and as a society — with the maelstrom.

Since the dawn of the digital era teachers and librarians have led the push to prepare youth to meet the challenge of the information age. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy offers a serviceable definition of infolit — to wit: “the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” The story of infolit is well-chronicled in a pair of lengthy Wikipedia pieces that provides references, definition, and basic background.

Still, today’s information-saturated environment presents a challenge for every lifelong learner – i.e. everyone. We are all in the same boat, struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of information overload, misinformation, and truncated innuendoes. It is incumbent upon each of us, regardless of age, economic, social or education status, to hone the skills of discernment, to stifle the spontaneous reaction, to share information responsibly and thoughtfully – in a word, to think.

Though the month of October offers far too little time to overcome our digital gaps, we can begin by focusing on the reality that we are at a critical moment in the history of this nation and the world. As never before we engage as producers, intermediaries, receivers, and processors of information; it is incumbent upon us to consider the dimensions of our responsibility, to realize that all information is not created equal and that funding source, authority, intent, verification, and a host of other factors shape the content of the messages that bombard us. As citizens of the information age we must also recognize and respect our role as sources and sharers of information and ideas.

The challenge of the Information Age is to internalize the fact that information matters – and to act accordingly. Exchanges of ignorance are inane at best, potentially dangerous. To honor the intrinsic value of good information is not instinctive; it must be taught, learned and applied – until it becomes habitual.

At one point I thought to create an ad hoc list of materials to help young people sharpen their infolit skills. During that initiative it came to me that these exercises would be appropriate for any one of us. Masters though we may be of digital manipulation we might well take time to think critically about what’s known in some circles as “critical thinking”.

So this launch into Info Lit Awareness Month begins with titles for adults who may hope to hone their own thinking skills before sharing them with 21st Century learners. There nothing conclusive about this, the point being to encourage readers to think about thinking.

One starting point might be a dip into the website of The Critical Thinking Community for their thoughts on the subject: http://www.criticalthinking.org//

Though this library-centric reference may compound the info overload it offers a comprehensive overview of information seekers and their interface with resources and it sets the stage for thinking about the broad scope of the challenge:

http://www.wip.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-library-in-life-of-user.pdf#page=190

Following is a pot pourri of approaches to logical thinking, coping with fallacies, intelligent embrace of the Net and the scourge of intentional misinformation – needless to say this is the proverbial tip of the infolit iceberg:

  • Almossawi, Ali and Alejandro Giraldo. An illustrated book of bad arguments.
  • Bennett, B. Logically Fallacious: The ultimate collection of over 300 logical fallacies.
  • Cryan, Cran and Sharron Shatil, authors, with Bill Mayblin, illustrator.Introducing Logic: A graphic guide.
  • Mintz, Ann P, editor. Web of Deceit: Misinformation and manipulation in the age of social media. Numerous contributors.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;  It is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke

New and pending laws protect rights of students who write

NOTE: This post is for anyone who once lived life as a beat reporter, editor or even beleaguered adviser on a high school or college newsletter – daily or bi-weekly, print or digital.

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has just adopted a resolution that supports pending state legislation designed to protect the ability of high school/college journalists to write about issues of public concern without restraint or retribution.

The resolution states unequivocally:

A free and independent student media is an essential ingredient of a civically healthy campus community, conveying the skills, ethics and values that prepare young people for a lifetime of participatory citizenship.

ASNE action responds specifically to Illinois’ enactment of the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act. Illinois is the tenth state to pass laws that support students’ freedom of the press. Legislation is pending in Michigan, New Jersey – and yes, Minnesota.(https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/text.php?number=HF2537&version=0&session_year=2016&session_number=0)

The ASNE action is the tip of a grassroots movement. Other professional associations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Journalism Education Association, have passed similar resolutions to support the rights of student journalists.

In fact, the support was coalesced into a national movement known as New Voices (http://newvoicesus.com), a project of the Student Press Law Center (www.splc.org). The mission of New Voices is “to give young people the legally protected right to gather information and share ideas about issues of public concern.”   New Voices “works with advocates in law, education, journalism and civics to make schools and colleges more welcoming places for student voices.”

Responding the support from the journalism professions, Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC, observes that “the consensus of those most knowledgeable about how journalism is practiced and taught is overwhelming: Students can’t learn to be inquisitive, independent-minded journalists – or inquisitive, independent-minded citizens – when schools exercise total control over everything they say and write.”

The history of the Student Press Law is interesting in itself. It actually grew out of the work of journalist Jack Nelson, best known for his coverage of the Watergate mess and the Civil Rights movement. In a revealing book entitled Captive Voices, based on interviews with student journalists and their teachers, Nelson contended that censorship in schools was pervasive; the book was actually commissioned by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Fund. Nelson’s findings influenced national awareness of student journalists’ rights, which led to a partnership between the RFK Memorial, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to create the Student Press Law Center.

Today, the SPLC, headquartered in Washington, DC. provides free legal assistance and training for student journalists and their teachers. More about the SPLC, including a library of free legal research materials, can be found on the SPLC website (http://www.splc.org)